Women's hockey tries to grow, despite North American dominance
VANCOUVER, B.C. -- If you think watching a 12-1 blowout isn't fun,
"You don't ever like beating a team 12-1," the U.S. captain said after her team defeated China on Sunday afternoon. "It's hard because you don't practice to play games like this.... It's not what we train for."
Less than 24 hours earlier, Canada had delivered the biggest defeat in Olympic women's hockey history, racking up 18 goals against Slovakia in their opener. Two Canadian women,
Such lopsided affairs tend to stir the parity pot, particularly in the women's game, which isn't fair. American and Canadian players are quick to mention its existence elsewhere when asked about the level of competition -- or lack thereof -- in their first games in Vancouver. At the World Junior Men's Championships last December, for instance, Team Canada demolished Latvia 16-0, and Team USA defeated the same team 12-1 -- evidence the blowout is by no means unique to women's hockey.
But none of the players can deny that a gap in talent and depth between the two best teams in the world and everyone else exists. And maybe it isn't closing as quickly as some would hope because, for better or worse, the women's game is growing -- not only abroad but also still within the borders of North America.
"We played four lines today," Darwitz says. "We just rolled right through [with four lines]. I think four or eight years ago, we were going [with] three [lines], maybe four. So the depth of our team has grown."
The U.S. and Canada are forced to improve because they're entrenched in a sort of arms race with each other, essentially leaving the rest of the field behind. And so as the U.S. and Canadian women push each other to higher levels, there's a distinct possibility the disparity in the field won't go away until the U.S. and Canada reach a comfortable plateau.
Finland and Sweden, the perennial also-rans, are the closest to catching the U.S. and Canada. But in the past two years, Finland and Sweden have upset the two powers just three times combined, not often enough to consider them viable threats to the U.S.-Canada hegemony.
"It comes down to depth," says USA general manager
China, a nation with more than 650 million women, has less than 500 registered female hockey players. Slovakia has some 250. "Just give it some time," says U.S. defenseman
It's a hopeful thought, that hockey can grow in these nations simply because of the Olympic presence, but at what point does attention turn into detrimental attention? How does an 18-0 whipping help muster interest in women's hockey in Slovakia?
Perhaps it doesn't. But Slovakian goalie